From the Editor

Abby Butler

I’ve just finished creating a written test for the undergraduate students enrolled in the Intro- duction to Music Education course I teach. I enjoy teaching this class for a number of reasons. First, I appreciate the opportunity it affords to learn about my students along with their aspira- tions for a career in teaching music. I also appre- ciate the way my students challenge me to stay on top of my game as we explore and construct our understanding of what it means to teach music successfully. I’m passionate about music and fascinated by the complexities of teaching, so the Intro course is a great fit.

Tis particular test comprises information from two of my favorite chapters, “Education in the United States: Its Historical Roots” (Ch. 4) and “Educational Philosophy and Your Teaching” (Ch. 5), from our text, Introduction to Teaching: Becoming a Professional by Don Kauchak and Paul Eggen1

. Although some might consider

these topics boring and irrelevant, I find them intriguing. Perhaps it’s the way in which the authors contemporize historical and theoretical issues or how they frame questions that encour- age deep thinking. Regardless, I find the topics compelling, refreshing, and stimulating.

As you might imagine, many of my students fail to exhibit the same enthusiasm, aſter all, they just want to teach music. So when we get to these chapters, I make a point of seeking out strategies that will engage students with the information while helping them explore ways in which what they’re learning impacts their practice. Terein lies my fascination. What do I need to know about these topics in order to contextualize them for my students, a question that requires me to deepen my own understanding of music teach- ing and learning.

Let’s look briefly at philosophy. Most teacher preparation programs require students to exam- ine their beliefs about music and education. In fact the ubiquitous philosophy statement paper crops up everywhere in various courses within the music education curriculum. Each year I wrestle with whether or not to include this as- signment. Some students really struggle to com- plete the assignment and I wonder how much they’re learning in the process. Yet it’s through the process of struggling to make manifest their beliefs that they have the potential to grow the most.

Tink about this. Philosophy asks us to consid- er difficult and oſten unanswerable questions.

It forces us to lay bare our beliefs and examine our assumptions while challenging us to defend, support, and articulate those beliefs. Doing so repeatedly and over time deepens our under- standing, helping us to refine and crystalize our ideas. Why is this important? It is unlikely that we will share these ideas and beliefs with others, as they are highly personal. We might refer to them when advocating for music education, but this typically requires a more general focus and vocabulary. So again, why is it important for us to revisit our personal philosophy of music, teaching, and learning?

Teachers make hundreds of decisions every day and those decisions are oſten translated into ac- tions that affect our students. Furthermore, our actions, which are rooted in our personal beliefs, are oſten tied to the success of our programs. When we can identify and articulate our beliefs we are in a better position to understand instruc- tional decisions and apply meaningful criteria as we analyze and reflect on our own teaching prac- tices. For me, this is one of the most compelling reasons to actively and repeatedly explore our own personal philosophy.

In this issue of the Michigan Music Educator you will find a variety of articles related, of course, to some aspect of music learning and teaching. As you read them, consider how they might support or challenge your personal beliefs. For example, consider Norman Wika’s article on the importance of practice and the development of independent musicians. He describes what he and others believe to be effective practice: de- liberate, goal-oriented, effortful, and structured. How do your beliefs jive with this definition? If your knowledge and experience lead you to agree, how might you incorporate his ideas into your classroom? If you find yourself questioning some of those suggestions, what does that say about your beliefs? Do you consider practicing an important skill for students to develop, yet prefer a different approach, why?

Perhaps you are intrigued by Holly Olszewski’s article, Take Note of Tis: Getting along with Your Administrators and Building Staff. In this article Olszewski shares a favorite principal’s perspective on building collaborative relation- ships among all teachers, including specialists, to create a productive and respectful learning en- vironment. As you read through the suggestions she describes, think about how your personal experiences may color your reactions. Is this collaborative approach something you value? Do


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